Listen now on:
Even the headlines announcing Lesley Gore’s passing unfortunately suggest how underappreciated she is. Most seem to refer to her as “The Singer of ‘It’s My Party.’ ” And we get it—it was her biggest hit and made her a star. But we think Lesley Gore’s legacy deserves much more than being reduced to one seemingly simple pop hit, no matter how great and infectious the early Quincy Jones production is.
And yes, many obits have also mentioned “Maybe I Know” (the Brill building at its peak) and “You Don’t Own Me”(one of the first overtly feminist hit songs, covered by Joan Jett on her first album for all the right reasons).
But Gore’s catalog runs much deeper than the three to four songs you’ll hear in these tributes or the ever-narrowing playlists of oldies radio.
Case in point: “What Am I Gonna Do With You,” which is arguably her best vocal performance. (She’s revered as a girl-group-styled hitmaker but undervalued as a singer—especially when it comes to her magnificent live performance.) In a class with some of the best songs chosen for Dusty Springfield, Aretha, and even Adele (hint, hint), “What Am I Gonna Do With You” is a plea for empathy from an unfaithful and unworthy lover. Amidst the production flourishes (also courtesy of a young Quincy Jones), you can hear a palpable sense of pain and disappointment. It’s soulful, sad, and serious.